Tuesday, January 27, 2009


Have you ever noticed how much energy we seem to expend avoiding our own minds? I am not talking about all the good stuff; e.g., pleasant thoughts, positive recollections, fond memories, etc. I am talking about those thoughts, feelings, images, memories, etc., that scare the living hell out of us. Remember those?

There is a movie that came out in 1971 called Jacobs Latter. It starred Tim Robbins who plays a Vietnam veteran who keeps encountering strange and frightening "demonic" beings and "hellish" experiences as he attempts to make sense out of his post-war life. For much of the movie it is hard to understand what is actually happening. It is one of those movies that has so many "flash back" scenes that after awhile you are not sure what the heck is going on. Tim's character becomes increasingly confused and disoriented as the movie progresses and the scenes become scarier and more bizarre by the minute.

Here is a brief synopsis of the movie that you can find on Wikipedia:

"Jacob Singer (Tim Robbins) is a U.S. soldier in the Mekong Delta, Vietnam ... without warning, Jacob's unit comes under fire. The soldiers try to take cover, but begin to exhibit strange behavior for no apparent reason. Jacob tries to escape the unexplained insanity, only to be bayoneted by an unforeseen enemy. ...

The film shifts between Vietnam, to Jacob's memories (and delusions) of his son Gabe (Macaulay Culkin) and former wife Sarah ... to his present relationship with a women named Jezebel ... in New York City. During this time, Jacob faces several threats to his life and has severe hallucinatory experiences. It is revealed that his son Gabe was hit by a car and killed while Jacob was in Vietnam ...

Jacob's friend, chiropractor and guardian angel Louis (Danny Aiello) states the main thematic point of the film: in effect, hell is really purgatory, and those who are ready to let go of their lives do not find the experience 'hellish.' It is at this point that Louis cites the 14th century Christian mystic Meister Eckhart ..."

"You know what [Eckhart] said? The only thing that burns in hell is that part of you that won't let go of your life; your memories, your attachments. They burn 'em all away. But they're not punishing you, he said. They're freeing your soul. ... If you're frightened of dying and holding on, you'll see devils tearing your life away. But if you've made your peace then the devils are really angels, freeing you from the Earth."

"We finally learn that Jacob never made it out of Vietnam, the entire series of experiences turns out to have been a dying hallucination. Jacob's experiences appear to have been a form of purgation in which he releases himself from his earthly attachments, finally joining his dead son Gabe to ascend a staircase [Jacob's latter] toward a bright light."

This movie is an allegory for the process that is set forth in the Tibetan Book of the Dead detailing the transition from this life, through death and the intermediate state known as the Bardo and rebirth. The movie only depicts this process up and until the moment of Jacob's death.

But one does not have to die to experience the release that comes from letting go of the "demons" that terrorize our minds from one moment to the next; i.e., our negative thoughts, emotions, memories, etc.

If we are willing to bring them out of the dark corners and closets in our minds where we like to keep them locked away and into the light of our conscious awareness, we will find that we can be with them without ever experiencing any real harm. When we can finally befriend those aspects of ourselves that terrify us, our thought "demons" will in turn transform into angels and guide us to freedom.

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